Million Member Coalition Forms Behind Renewable Energy Agenda

WASHINGTON, DC, July 11, 2012 (ENS) – Thirty-six nonprofit groups with more than 1.1 million members have formed a coalition to advance a “serious renewable energy agenda” regardless of who occupies the White House or which party controls Congress after the November elections.

The coalition’s “American Clean Energy Agenda” calls for phasing out nuclear power, natural gas, coal and industrial biomass “and driving a grand transition to efficient use of renewable, non-polluting resources.”

As signed by the supporting citizen organizations, the American Clean Energy Agenda states, “The time is now for a new, grassroots-driven politics to bring about a renewable energy future. As Congress debates major new public investments in energy, we need to ensure that our taxpayer dollars support an energy system that protects public health, promotes energy independence and ensures the economic well being of all Americans.”

Turbines generating power at California’s Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm (Photo by Kathryn Adams)

The coalition believes that achieving a sustainable energy future “hinges on grassroots organizing to mobilize and educate the public and to demand support from our community, business, and political leaders.”

Organized by the nonprofit Civil Society Institute and the Environmental Working Group, the emergence of this new network of citizens’ groups reflects a deep dissatisfaction among Americans over the “all of the above” approach to energy. The groups say the “all of the above” policy preserves the worst options and dilutes the focus on real solutions.

“All of the above” was originally a phrase used by Republicans, but it has been adopted by the Obama Administration to describe its own energy policy.

Civil Society Institute President Pam Solo said, “It is time for the communities who are suffering the ill effects of fracking, mountaintop mining, and other forms of wasteful and dangerous energy production to have a say in moving America to a clean energy future. The political power of the energy industry has deferred a clean energy agenda at the expense of the health and safety of too many communities in the country.”

The coalition says it represents “the thinking of the vast majority of Americans” as reflected in an April 25, 2012 public opinion survey conducted by the research firm ORC International and released by the Civil Society Institute.

The poll found that 77 percent of those surveyed – including 70 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Independents, and 85 percent of Democrats – believe that “the energy industry’s extensive and well-financed public relations, campaign contributions and lobbying machine is a major barrier to moving beyond business as usual when it comes to America’s energy policy.”

In addition, 83 percent of those surveyed agree that, “The time is now for a new, grassroots-driven politics to realize a renewable energy future. Congress is debating large public investments in energy and we need to take action to ensure that our taxpayer dollars support renewable energy – one that protects public health, promotes energy independence and the economic well being of all Americans.”

The majorities in agreement with that statement were 69 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of Independents, and 95 percent of Democrats.

Heather White, chief of staff, Environmental Working Group, said, “As this research shows, the vast majority of Americans agree that we need clean, renewable energy, and don’t want big subsidies flowing to oil and nuclear companies. They want us to invest in energy efficiency, renewable and technology to ensure an economically viable and livable economy. We must make a clear choice that will put the nation on the right track to clean energy future.”

In its agenda, the coalition makes a distinction between a “renewable energy standard” and a “clean energy standard.”

“The renewable energy standard is a proven model for a sustainable future, and our goal is to see it implemented on a national basis – as it already is in many states and other nations,” the agenda states. “We oppose the so-called “clean energy standard” as a dishonest political ploy designed to protect polluting energy industries – coal, nuclear, oil, gas and unsustainable biomass – that have brought us to the crisis we are in today.”

“Whether it be oil and shale gas drilling, coal mining or nuclear energy, this coalition of grassroots experts have witnessed firsthand the devastating impacts of mountaintop mining removal, fracking for natural gas, uranium mining and nuclear waste,” said White. “We’ve banded together to take back our clean energy future from the seemingly all-powerful big oil, natural gas and energy companies that continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to keep us trapped in a dirty energy economy.”

Michael Mariotte, executive director of the anti-nuclear advocacy group Nuclear Information and Resource Service, sees the coalition as a “David” fighting the energy industry’s “Goliath.”

“America’s clean energy future is a fight worth waging, even in the face of enormously well-financed and powerful lobbyists that do the bidding of the dirty and dangerous nuclear power and fossil fuel companies,” Mariotte said.

“We look forward to working with these 35 organizations – and many more to come – to put the health of people and the protection of the environment ahead of the mindless pursuit of polluting energy at any cost,” he said.

The 36 organizations supporting the agenda are: Appalachian Citizens Law Center, Beyond Nuclear, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Christians for the Mountains, Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, Citizens’ Greener Evanston, Civil Society Institute, Clean Air Council, Coal River Mountain Watch, Community Environmental Defense Council, Dakota Resource Council, Don’t Waste Michigan, Environmental Advocates of New York, Environmental Working Group, GRACE Communications Foundation, Healthy Planet, Kentucky Coalition, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Northern Plains Resource Council, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Oregon Rural Action, Otsego 2000, Partnership for Policy Integrity, Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Sustainable and Healthy Energy, Powder River Basin Resource Council, Renewable Energy Long Island, Responsible Drilling Alliance, Shut Down Indian Point Now, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Statewide Organizing for Community Empowerment, Vermont Citizens Action Network, West Michigan Jobs Group, Western Colorado Congress, Western Organization of Resource Councils, and Women’s Energy Matters.

Solo said, “To those who will say that these groups do not have a place at the policy-making table, we say this: these are exactly the people who need to be heard. The harms caused by continued reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power may not be felt in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, but they are experienced in the heartland of this nation.”

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